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Important Innovations in Solar Power Solutions

Solar power systems have continued to evolve in many ways over their decades-long history. Their maturity includes innovations that make them more efficient, less expensive, and with greater durability than ever before. All of these changes help to make a solar power system the clear alternative energy choice for many homeowners today.

One of the biggest changes in solar power systems over the last decade has been the standardization of the equipment that allows different brands of components to be used in the same system. Before these standards were established, older systems had to be created out of a single manufacturer’s equipment. This meant that these early systems were more expensive than necessary and gave the homeowner little choice over what components were used to build their solution. By establishing standards for the size and connection types between certain components, the industry now enables consumers to choose whatever solar panels they want and connect them to a wide universe of other companies’ equipment. It also made the installation of this equipment easier since standard mounting rails can now be installed on the roof of a home that can support any number of different solar panels.

The other change that came along with this push for standardization was flexibility. Older systems were very specific in their designs. In many cases, these older systems required all the equipment that would ever be installed on the home to be done during the initial installation. This made them very inflexible and offered the homeowner very little expansion options later.

These newer solar power systems are designed to be easy to expand and allow you to start with a smaller system and expand it over time as your needs dictate. This is a critical factor in these newer systems’ adoption by homeowners, as it allows them to start with an inexpensive system and enjoy the free power and savings it provides immediately. They can then expand this system over time to increase these savings by adding more solar panels to their roof and simply connecting them to the existing system. This also helps these homeowners avoid the huge initial investment that the older systems required. This initial financing kept many homeowners from taking advantage of this wonderful alternative energy solution in the past.

In addition to these changes to the systems, there have been substantial innovations to the components used to build the system as well. Solar panels have gone through a series of improvements over the years that allow them to produce far more power than older models. Most new solar panels can deliver over twice as much power as older panels from the same amount of sunlight.

These newer solar panels are able to do this through a combination of improvements to the solar cells used in their construction, as well as changes to their manufacturing process. Older solar panels had a limitation on how much of the available spectrum of sunlight they could convert to electricity. In most cases, they could only take advantage of a very narrow band of visible light and most of the sunlight that arrived at the panels was wasted. Some of the newer solar panels have a much wider conversion capability and can harvest a larger portion of the visible light spectrum, as well as parts of the ultraviolet and infrared spectrum. This allows them to produce much more power from average sunlight as older solar panels.

In addition to these improvements, these newer solar panels do a much better job of converting dimmer light to power. Older panels had a hard time converting the weaker light found at sunrise and sunset to useful power. This meant that even though the sun was up, the solar power system on your home was still dormant. Newer panels have a much lower threshold of light needed to start the conversion process, and as a result can make good use of this dimmer light. This allows them to be active for longer portions of the average day, which translates into a more substantial power output for these improved solar panels.

Another innovation that makes these newer solar power systems an easier choice for homeowners is the new smart meters that most local utilities are using. These new meters allow a home equipped with alternative energy equipment to send any excess power they are generating back up the power lines and receive a credit for this power. They can then use this credit to offset the cost of electricity they may need to buy back when their systems are inactive. By allowing the homeowner to trade power back and forth when needed, these newer smart meters enable these solar power systems to offset a larger portion of a home’s monthly utility bill.

Older systems required that any excess power be stored in the home in large banks of batteries, where some of it could be used in the evenings when needed. The problem with this arrangement was that these batteries were expensive and many systems didn’t even include this option. This meant that these older systems were fine for generating power during the day when the sun was shining, but stayed inactive all evening and forced the homeowner to buy power during those periods. Because of this limitation, older systems could only offset a small portion of a home’s electricity bill and made it difficult to justify their cost for many homeowners.

Now that these newer systems can store the excess energy they generate on the grid, a home can eliminate the need to ever buy power if their solar power system is large enough. In fact, in many areas, you will actually be paid for any excess power your system generates over what you consume each month.

With all of these innovations in solar power it’s easy to see why it has become the clear alternative energy choice for many homeowners. Its ability to generate free power from simple sunlight that can help to offset a large portion of electricity used in the home is very appealing to people hoping to lower their energy costs. The fact that you can start small and grow your system as needed means this could be a perfect solution for your home as well.

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One comment

  1. All of this PV talk is very interesting, but not helpful. I live in Arizona where solar power should be KING! For the life of me, the sales people I have talked to can’t explain the differences between mono/poly pv let alone the building products. I tell them my average monthly electric bill is currently $220/month with SRP’s one price plan (not time of use). I ask them how many panels or PV products would I need to cover my electricity needs for the year. Every time I am met with either beating around the bush with absolutely no answer or a dumb stare that clearly states, “What the hell are you asking for?” I wish there were good quality salespeople that were fully versed in PV and especially their products. Then I “might” be able to get a usable answer.

    I am NOT holding my breath as I think most salespeople are knuckleheads. – J

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